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More than 800 military families line up for free food at Norfolk mall – Daily Press



NORFOLK — More than 800 local military families lined up Saturday to pick up free food distributed to help them deal with food insecurity and rising grocery costs.

The drive-through event was held at Military Circle mall. It was hosted by Military Family Advisory Network, an organization that seeks to help connect military families to the resources they need.

A steady stream of cars, trucks, minivans and SUVs snaked through a section of the parking lot from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., while volunteers placed frozen chicken, potatoes, onions, cabbage, and other produce and pantry items into their vehicles. A DJ under one of the many tents blasted music as cars rode by.

MFAN conducted a nationwide survey in 2019 that showed one in eight military families suffered from food insecurity, said Alexandra Meyers said, a spokeswoman for the organization. Since the pandemic began, that number has grown to one in five, she said, with Hampton Roads being one of the areas with the greatest need.

The families had to register in advance for a time slot to participate. Up to 860 could sign up, and all the slots were quickly taken, Meyers said. The rest were placed on a waiting list.

Saturday’s event was the second food drive for military families that MFAN has hosted in the area, Meyers said. They plan another in the fall.

All the distributed food was donated, with Tyson Foods supplying the chicken, she said. About 100 volunteers signed up to load the food into the vehicles.

“We work very hard to provide immediate relief like this,” Meyers said. “But we’re also looking at long-term causes to try to figure out how best to deal with the problem.”

Jane Harper, jane.harper@pilotonline.com



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